How to plan an Overland Tour through Africa [Guide]

March 27, 2019
Jodi Lucas
Jodi is an adventure enthusiast and Douglas Adams groupie who supports these addictions through travel writing. When she’s not hitting Cape Town’s surf, you’ll find her trawling pre-loved bookstores for a leather-bound volume of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

An overland tour in Africa is a travel odyssey like no other. After all, this beautiful continent is filled with sensational sights and experiences that have probably been on your bucket list for a while!

The great migration in the Serengeti, safaris in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, desert exploring in Namibia, gorilla trekking in Uganda. Nothing can compete with spending a few weeks or months on the road in Africa.

So, if you’ve been thinking about overlanding and need help planning your travels to Africa then you’re in the right place. Here’s everything you need to help you put together the most adventurous African overland experience.

 

Infographic - How to plan and Overland tour through Africa

 

1. First thing’s first. Where do you want to go?

Africa is a huge continent. To put it into perspective, it is more than three times the size of the US including Canada and Alaska. That is a lot of ground to cover so knowing which highlights you want to see will determine which trip is best for you.

Typically speaking, overland tours are either in East Africa or Southern Africa. If your adventure through Africa must include highlights such as Victoria Falls and the Kruger Park then Southern Africa is for you.

On the other hand, overlanding in East Africa will give you a glimpse of iconic places like the Masai Mara National Reserve, Ngorongoro Crater, and the Serengeti National Park. But, if FOMO guides your travel itinerary then you can always do both!

While your start point and route are crucial, it is also important to think about where you want to end your overland tour. Remember, this is not a holiday, it’s an adventure. Roughing it out for a few weeks is grand but at the end of it, you’re going to want some downtime. This is why we recommend adding extra days in destinations such as Cape Town or Zanzibar post tour.

 

2. When or what time of year do you want to travel?

Once you’re settled on where in Africa you want to overland and what you want to see, the next factor to consider is when do you want to go.

Generally speaking, overlanding in Africa is a year-round event. But, as with any other type of travel, there are peak and low seasons that can have a huge impact on your overlanding experience.

Do you want to avoid the hot summer or go on a camping trip when rainfall is low? Do you want to see the migration, or go to the Zambezi when its waters are flowing at maximum?

Typically July and August are popular months to explore Tanzania and Kenya thanks to the excellent Great Migration action. While January and February are primed for Gorilla trekking in Uganda.

 

3. How many days are you planning to be on tour?

Aligned with your decision about when to go on your Africa overland tour, is how long to go for. This can be between 1-7 days, 8-14 days, 15-25 days and 25+ days.

Ultimately the amount of time you have will determine how much distance you can cover. If you’re just taking a break from work, this is more likely to be a shorter period of time and you’ll be limited to either one or two countries and tours that skim the surface.

But, if you’ve got an open calendar to play around with, then you’ll be able to explore more countries for longer periods of time. Whatever timeframe you come up with, you need to consider if you can see all the things you want to in that period.

We recommend 2 weeks or more on the road in Africa as this allows you to really engage and take in the experience as well as see many things in a relatively short amount of time.

4. Your budget

The next thing to consider is your budget, excluding flights. There are two questions you need to ask yourself when planning your overlanding tour budget – How much have you got to spend and how much are you willing to spend?

Dozens of variables go into determining the price of a trip and it is important to remember that your budget shapes the experience. For example, a semi-inclusive lodge safari will cost more than a tented safari but can also be more comfortable if you’re not into roughing it out.

By the end of it, your price ranges can look something like this: 1000 – 2000 USD, 2000 – 3000 USD or 3000+USD per person.

Then there are the additional expenses. Think souvenirs, meals that are not included, last-minute activities you may want to join, guide tips, visas etc.

Be sure to read all the small print about what is and isn’t included in the tour. Trust me, the Hakuna Matata lifestyle does not apply when booking your overland tour in Africa.

 

5. Your accommodation style

Another thing to consider is your travel style. After all, you don’t want to spend weeks on the road feeling tired and uncomfortable. So, knowing yourself is paramount to planning an overland tour in Africa.

Are you excited by the thought of roughing it out in the wild? Dead-set on not cooking while you overland? Do you need the comfort of a bed (not sleeping mat) each night? Thankfully, there are a few options that cater to various travel styles.

Camping

If you’re looking to Bear Grylls it then a Camping Overland Tour will be perfect for you! Participation is key here so expect to assist in setting up your campsite, building campfires, and preparing some meals.

A camping safari is ideal for travelers who want to experience the wilder side of Africa. And, as the name suggests, you will be doing a lot of camping! On adventures like these, you’ll stay in large canvas tents which are spacious enough for two adults plus luggage. Or, you can opt to have your own tent by including the single supplement. Either way, with the wildlife mere meters away, you will feel connected to the environment and the starry night skies.

Accommodated

But, if the idea of sleeping in a tent for a few weeks/months does not float your boat then you can opt for an Accommodated safari. Although you probably won’t be in a 5-star resort, this overland style comes with all the basic comforts plus incredible views.

If you prefer a more premium experience, we can also assist with our range of African Lodge Safaris. These tours offer comfortable accommodation in 3-4 star lodges with optional actives including scenic flights and boat cruises.

6. Your travel style

On that note, it is also important to consider your travel style. Are you the kind of person who lives for action-packed itineraries or do you prefer the stillness of watching a lion stalk its prey?

An African overland tour is bound to feature some kind of adventure but there are a few travel styles to choose from.

Action packed Adventure

Not for the faint of heart, an action Packed Adventure is guaranteed to get your blood pumping. Think white-water rafting Victoria Falls, tandem skydiving in Cape Town, and sandboarding in the Namibian desert.

Safari and Wildlife Tour of National Parks

A safari and wildlife tour is the quintessential African travel experience. Typically these overland adventures feature national parks and animals you want to see. For example, if the great migration is on your bucket list then a classic East African safari is a fantastic option for you. Or, eschew the classics and opt for a water-based safari which is best experienced in Botswana on the Delta and Chobe River.

Remote discovery

For some people, the remoteness of Africa is the biggest drawcard. There is nothing quite like spotting hidden gems that lie off the beaten track, falling asleep under a starry sky free of pollution, or exploring untrodden destinations.

On a remote discovery tour, custom built overland trucks take intrepid travelers beyond the guide book to destinations such as makgadikgadi pans or Spitzkoppe.

Small Group Tours

A small group overland tour is ideal for travelers who want the best of both worlds. Featuring fewer travelers, this overland style is perfect for those who want something more personal.

Whatever your preferences are, make sure to stick to factoring them in as you explore your options – this will be key in ensuring that you experience the perfect African overland tour for YOU.

 

7. Are you traveling solo or with others?

This is perhaps one of the most underrated things to consider when planning your overland tour in Africa. Your travel buddy (or lack of one) has the potential to enhance or really take away from your experience.

Sometimes a solo trip gives you complete freedom and flexibility, and other times travel becomes a unique bonding experience with a friend or family member. Both kinds of travel have their particular challenges and advantages.

Overland tours are perfect for solo travelers as they allow you to connect with people you wouldn’t normally have the chance to meet. And, although a single supplement may apply, you have the benefit of being in complete control over your itinerary. It’s your adventure!

One of the biggest benefits of overlanding for solo travelers is that you will be able to join a group of like-minded travelers on tour and share experiences while making new friends.

Overlanding in Africa is also an amazing experience for couples. I mean, safari honeymoons are a thing for a reason. Nobody knows you quite like your partner which can make the planning and traveling much easier! Plus, you’ll also be making epic memories along the way.

Traveling in a small group or as a family is a whole new ball game and is best suited to small group trips. We’ve all experienced or at least heard of a family travel horror story/epic fail group trip, but it is not all doom and gloom. If planned well, an overlanding tour with your squad can be EPIC.

Large groups make the best team building opportunity especially while learning and exploring Africa. In some cases, a private tour will be best suited to a large group as this will give the flexibility to cater to the group’s needs


8. Private safari vs Group Safari

Group Tours are fantastic as you have a choice of departure dates and can simply join the tour while saving money and not having to do any planning of the route and meals etc. Convenience, safety, knowledge, easy etc

Private tours are ideal for groups of 6 or more travelers and allow you to define the start and end dates as well as any specific group requirements. Private Tours cater to the specific needs of the group such as being at certain highlights on certain days and skipping others which may not be of interest to the group.book

Whether you join a large group on a month-long overland tour or are taking a one-week getaway, one thing remains the same: that feeling of excitement and adventure. Every day on the road in Africa is different and it’s an experience you’ll never forget.

At African Overland Tours our expert travel advisors are ready to guide you on this decision process and answer all your questions so that we can help you book your ultimate tour in Africa.

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